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Judge's ruling raises more questions and brings promises of appeal

by Harvey Joe Sanner
Arkansas soybean farmer

(Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) --Last week, Federal District Judge Wayne R. Andersen dismissed the jury that was hearing a case brought by me and other soybean farmers and then ruled in favor of the Chicago Board of Trade's (CBOT) motion to dismiss the lawsuit. We plan to appeal this ruling.

We filed this lawsuit in Chicago on Nov. 14, 1989 because an action known as an Emergency Resolution by the CBOT on July 11, 1989, drove soybean prices downward. The jury was seated Sept. 17, 2002, in Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, following a 13-year effort by the CBOT to avoid a trial. Over the course of this suit the appellate court has reversed the lower court on two separate occasions. Also, during the trial, the CBOT appealed to the appellate court and asked that Judge Andersen's order allowing the trial to proceed be overturned. That motion was denied.

The ruling reveals some interesting facts that go to the very heart of this entire issue and that is the integrity of our markets. We think that for market integrity to be ensured, there must be accountability and liabilities for those who might abuse their authority. In essence it says that the exchange directors and the CBOT as a whole, are not to be held responsible for their actions, even if damage to market participants, namely farmers, occurs because of those actions.

The standard of conduct sanctioned by this ruling would be considered outlandish in other areas of our lives. If the members of city councils, school boards or a church building fund committee were to ignore conflict of interest guidelines and proclaim themselves above reproach it would be appalling to everyone. Yet, if Judge Andersen's ruling prevails, the regulatory and judicial system will have granted special privileges to a private firm and a select group of business men who are exempt from a basic code of conduct that applies to the rest of society.

This is not only unfair, it's horrifying! The CBOT is a private corporation, sometimes referred to as 'The Club.' To think that members of this club can self regulate with impunity and protect the public's interest is beyond reason and certainly seems to make a mockery of the nation's anti-trust laws.